Monthly Archives: March 2019

Ladies, are we discerning enough when it comes to what sorts of media we engage with?

View article posted at Evie Magazine HERE:

Remember when you were a kid and mom would say you were not allowed to watch certain movies? She would say it was because you were not old enough to watch such a scary/violent/inappropriate/(fill in the blank) movie, and that you had to wait until you were older. Up until a certain age mom and dad pretty much monitored whatever it was you were watching on TV or listening to on your Walkman (I am an adult millennial okay?). You probably tried to get away with watching an R rated movie or listening to that one 50 Cent song your mom would always turn off when it was on the radio. Then one day you were free! Somewhere between age 13 and 18, depending on how strict your parents were, the world of entertainment was your oyster! You could read all the Cosmo’s you wanted and watch any movie and listen to any unedited version of a song you wanted! In retrospect your fragile, malleable, pre-pubescent brain was not mature enough to engage with certain content. But as you got older and wised up the assumption became that you were mature and responsible enough to watch scary movies without having to lose a week’s sleep, or you could watch a TV show with sexual content and not be traumatized. 

Yet as we have grown up how often do we ask ourselves whether the media we engage with is toxic to us?  The assumption is that we are mature and responsible enough to make good choices about what we listen to, read and watch, and yet most adults rarely question their own media engagement or call into discussion it’s toxicity. 

I teach dance classes to young children and the other day I played the song “7 Rings” By Arianna Grande for my class to warm up to. One of the girls informed me that while it was one of her favorite songs she was no longer allowed to listen to it. I apologized, turned it off and asked if it was inappropriate, because to my knowledge there was only the muffled use of a bad word or two. She told me that her parents said they did not want her listening to the song because it gloried money and told listeners that money could solve their problems. My initial reaction to her explanation was that yeah she was right and that kids were too malleable to listen to certain messages even if it was just a  fun, catchy tune. Adults, on the other hand are discerning enough to recognize that it is just a fun song and that Arianna is not reallyinsisting that materialism is a solution to our problems or that money can substitute therapy. Right?! And yet as I thought more about the short interaction I began to realize that perhaps the 8 year old girl was imparting a wisdom that most adults were prone to shrug off and ignore because they were over calculating their own maturity. 

The reality is that even though we are supposedly educated, mature adults who have the ability to discern what is good for us and what is toxic, we rarely do it. We often put ourselves in the position as passive consumers of media rather than active ones. All too often we allow ourselves to succumb to the mind-numbing, almost comatose state of turning our brains off and passively absorbing the subliminal messaging all around.   How often do we stop and ask ourselves what the messages are in the songs we listen to and the TV shows we watch? And how often do we ask whether they are uplifting, truthful, and/or helpful to us? 

Back in the day most ads with hypnotic charms were aimed at kids, like sugary cereal ads where the kids would watch TV and then beg their parents for the same cereal at the super market. The media got in trouble for trying to manipulate and target kids who were not mature or intelligent enough to discern that the messages were meant to manipulate and beguile them. And while most people feel that was a triumph against the pervasive messaging of the omnipotent, omnipresent media, that same tactic regularly influences bona fide adults as they too shut their brains off and allow subliminal messaging to trigger deeply rooted emotions like a need to be liked/loved or to feel worthy and valued. 

When asked, most people are quick to admit that the “media” in general is “bad” for us. We are constantly coming into contact with “Fake News” and advertising that over-sexualizes and objectifies women. We continually bemoan the toxicity of mainstream news outlets like Fox and CNN that sensationalize news into a “he said she said” battle where correspondents and commentators see who can talk over one another the loudest about issues that are meant to keep us bickering rather than seek out solutions. We know that social media has a correlation to depression and that most rap songs have horrible messages and yet when do we actually say, “this is bad for me” and turn it off? How often do we truly recognize the intent of the media around us? That is often aimed at getting us to dislike something about ourselves that we are told can be fixed with a purchase. The media’s constant goal is keep us dissatisfied and until we recognize that and take steps to reduce our engagement we remain under it’s stronghold. 

So what types of media should we start analyzing more deeply? What kinds of messages are being perpetuated? There is a huge difference between screening out messages we KNOW are bad for us, and toxic messages that are disguised as empowering, positive messages. 

Music

Everybody knows that most modern, popular music is garbage and yet we listen to it because we are “here for the beats and the not lyrics.” However, what we fails to recognize is that subliminal, subconscious messaging is a very potent form of communication. It is an effective form of propaganda that is often even more powerful because we too callously brush it off as “just a good song.”  But how often do we actually analyze the lyrics of our favorite jams as we sing along on our way to work? 

While we are aware that most rap music is misogynist and objectifying to women, most of our other favorite pop songs carry similar messages of over-sexualizing women, promoting promiscuity, romanticizing alcoholism, condoning violence against women, and worshiping of materialism and consumerism. While most of us are somewhat aware of these messages, we usually write them off without examining how much influence they carry over us and whether these are positive influences in our self-image, relationships, or view on money. For example, we are often unaware at how a song about women using men for money can affect how women are portrayed and how they act towards men. Or how a song glamorizing a breakup can influence our dating habits. 

Magazines

Most glossy women’s magazines run a lot of similar content, something that should be our first tip off that print is no longer pure journalism, the helping hand of democracy, but rather a strong grip in keeping us dissatisfied. Most mainstream women’s magazines pose as “feminist” and “pro-women,” yet they are are more complicit than we realize in keeping us as comatose masses eager to pull out our purses and pursue hedonistic pleasure in the name of empowerment. Most women’s magazine’s perpetuate the idea that self care can be achieved through consumerism, as if a face mask will solve all your problems, or that self care could also be sitting in front of Netflix allowing yourself to be passively influenced and sold ideas. Either way selfish, pleasure-seeking, consumerist behavior has been repackaged and sold to millions of women as “self care.” Whose idea do you think that was? The beauty industry or a therapist? 

Magazines also communicate to women that promiscuity, pleasure seeking, hedonistic behavior is fun and empowering, although it is actually very damaging mentally and emotionally to lots of women. If we take a look at the root of these sorts of messages it makes sense that the media would want to keep women in a perpetual state of dissatisfaction with their lives, continually seeking out novel pleasures and material gratification. It is good for business! It also begs the question of where do most women get their information about feminism? From the media you say? And wouldn’t most women agree that the media is toxic in most forms? So why on earth would we trust the media’s take on feminism, especially if most of the media is owned by white, billionaire men with monopolies on the information we consume? 

Articles glorifying a career over a family and hook up culture over marriage present a singular idea of femininity under the false pretense of “supporting all women.” Moreover these narrow concepts of female empowerment often glamorize climbing the ladder of consumerist, corporate America and pursuing cheap, physical pleasures as “liberating” and “empowering” without offering alternative choices to women or exploring the pros and cons. 

Movies/ TV

Most of us have gotten pretty lax with the types of TV/movies we watch, always self-assured that our adult brains are not influenced by any amount of cursing, sex, or violence we may see on TV. Yet, what if those should not be our foremost worries? Violence and cursing have little to no impact on most women, however things like the way men and women are portrayed on TV/movies are potent indicators of female behavior and attitudes in real life. Most women fail to recognize the way relationships are shown in tv/movies and the effect they might have on how we view real relationships.

For example, most tv/movies positively portray promiscuity and hooking up as glamorous, fun, sexy, exciting and empowering with very little reveal of the emotional or mental consequences of casual sex. Likewise, media often shows a very negative portrayal of married life, as boring and soul-sucking with tropes such as the nagging wife, the lazy husband, marital weight gain, obnoxious children and lackluster (if any) sex lives. Ultimately, marriage is shown as the death of romance, while sex without commitment is fun and empowering.

On the other end of the spectrum movies and TV can also show romance in very idealistic terms that can also put wildly high expectations on dating and romance. We see images of firework first kisses and men as knights in shining armor there to rescue women from the misery of single life, and we become bitter when our real relationships don’t unfold quite like The Notebook or Titanic

Social Media

Yeah yeah yeah we have heard it before, Facebook is bad for us, and our generation is more depressed than ever due to comparisons of false realities on social media where people force us to watch their desperate attempts for attention and validations through “stories” and “posts.” And yet there is more than meets the eye in terms of why social media is toxic. 
I, like most millennial women, follow lots of influencers on social media. Now don’t get me wrong I very much admire the premise of bloggers, who are using social media to become empowered girl boss entrepreneurs. For the most part, most bloggers seem eager to spread beauty and positivity to other women, and yet why do I still always feel like I hate myself after I watch one of their stories about their vacay to Cabo or a post on Botox?

Why do I continue to feel a gnawing anxiety that I am not pretty enough or skinny enough or am failing to have a complex enough skincare routine? Am I suppose to be able to afford a Gucci clutch? Is my health at stake if I don’t have a 6$ green juice from a hip shop in LA? 

I think that while bloggers have mostly good intentions, these get lost in an overall materialistic concentration focused on sales. And unfortunately consumerism’s biggest advocate is a dissatisfaction with the way that we are naturally. Lots of followers are left with the impression that they are not meeting the continual demands for women to be thin and beautiful, in spite of messaging that we are “perfect just the way we are.” It is confusing and it is hypocritical. I am pretty enough, but I am definitely not the prettiest unless I have a new facemask??

We are continually told that it is the male perversion of beauty and male objectivity of females that keep us chasing unrealistic beauty standards, and yet these are women keeping us trapped in a rat race of dissatisfaction with our appearance. 

from: https://www.laurenslipglossary.com

A lot of blogging is a carefully curated feed made to look perfect, and while we are mostly aware of this, it does not stop us from comparing our own “drab” lives to their “glamorous” ones. The affects of comparison are dissatisfaction, ungratefulness, selfishness and greed. 

SO what? Should I move to a cabin in the woods?

The most important step in getting out from under the media’s iron grip is to first recognize that every message the media sends is mostly about keeping us anxious, dissatisfied, unhappy, and in a continual state of seeking instant gratification, novelty, and pleasure to assuage our “unhappiness.” As soon as we recognize that, we can break free of the shackles. But the work does not end there. We need to focus on no longer being passively entertained by mindless media, and instead stay alert and discerning to messages. It is imperative that we bring into question what said messages are and how they are influencing us. Are they making us happier? Is it only for short bursts of time? Or are they making us feel more miserable in the long run? Are they keeping us glued to TV’s full of negative stereotypes about men and women? Are they keeping us chasing after material possessions in corporate America, but selling it as empowerment? Are they telling us what kind of woman to be and what “empowerment” looks like? Is the news just laundry lists of “bad” stuff going on and arguments meant to keep us distracted with issues that will be old news the next day anyways? 

It is important that we question and dissect the influx of messages around us. For example we should ask ourselves why casual sex is so glorified in almost every media outlet, is it because the media understands our needs, and wants what is best for us, or is it because they know that the constant pursuit of meaningless sex is ultimately dissatisfying and that a dissatisfied person is more likely to be an avid consumer of whatever “antidote” they are selling, whether it be alcohol, new clothes, a boob job, or a fad diet. 

The media has long believed that women were more influenced by pathos-based advertising due to our emotional nature and often uses that against women. This is why I encourage women especially to embrace empowerment not through consumerism and pleasure-seeking(ultimately fool-hardy pursuits), but through discernment and pursuing wisdom. Wisdom in the face of an avalanche of toxic, conflicting messages is the most empowering tool you can gain. True female empowerment comes from strong values rooted in truth and justice and discernment. 

Good luck,

Ellie x

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Is the “get over him” mentality not allowing us to grieve properly??

Relationships are a huge part of our lives no matter how “empowered” we are. And although having a boyfriend or not having one is in no way a reflection of your value, it does not mean that the loss of a relationship does not hurt. 

The days of Ben and Jerry’s binges and long nights crying into a pillow are over. In recent years the idea of the breakup, and how one should treat a breakup, has had a vast makeover. Revenge bodies as inspired by Khloe Kardashian and rebound hotties are the new post-breakup traditions. 
As strong, empowered 21st century women we are not suppose to let men get us down. Men are not suppose to define our identities or our happiness. Sometimes this is taken to far out extremes where we are often taught through vague, innocuous terms that men are disposable. We are suppose to be so empowered that men have no effect on our well-being.  And yet sometimes that is not always an accurate reflection of reality.

The new breakup mentality is to “get over him” as swiftly and seamlessly as possible. Women are no longer suppose to cry over men or experience grief, rather they are encouraged to either shove their feelings under the rug and present a facade of un-bothered chill, or participate in often unhealthy behavior such as using alcohol and partying as a coping mechanism, or hook up as a way to feed a veneer of empowerment. This “get over him” mentality is highly problematic in that it does not allow for, or encourage women to properly grieve, and instead suggests “band-aid fixes” and instant gratification to fill a void. 

I think of lot of this lack of healthy grieving has to do with undefined relationships. With so many relationships in label limbo, ie friends with benefits, hookups and “things” that never really leave the “talking” stage of relationship development, lots of women have trouble justifying their own pain. They feel that because he was not their “real boyfriend” or it was “just sex” that they should not really be sad over him. They convince themselves that because it was not a “legit relationship” that they should be able to just move on quickly and “get over it.” Worse, they think that entering into a similar arrangement with the next guy will fill the void.

These are dangerous messages that many mainstream women’s media outlets promote. Women are repeatedly fed the idea that pleasure seeking and instant gratification are replacements for grief or counseling. Moreover, much of women’s mainstream media perpetuates the idea that empowered women move on quickly and don’t get hung up on feelings. 
“Feelings” in particular are an entity more and more women are looking to avoid in the dating arena. Ironically, what exactly is dating without feelings? Feelings have been labeled a death sentence for the “empowered” women who is not controlled or hindered by emotions or the high price of bonding and becoming vulnerable with someone. To the modern dater, feelings are synonymous with vulnerability and a lack of control of the situation.

Rather women are suppose to engage in casual sex sans feelings, something that is not really a reality for most women. The result is a lot of women who don’t end up feeling “empowered.” Instead they feel depressed, lonely, and unfulfilled. Much of said negative feelings has to do with the fact the relationship or lack there of was not properly grieved when it ended.
Unfortunately the culture does not provide women with the tools to understand why hookup culture leaves them feeling this way. Hookup culture and mainstream media gives women the impression that hooking up is sexy and fun and empowering, and then leaves women confused and insecure when it is not all that it is promised to be. 

Women are often berated and belittled for being the more “emotional” sex. This is the often cited reason for why there has yet to be a female president or why women can’t be in positions of power. While this is an unfair and degrading assessment of womanhood that many female leaders are working to break down, society still maintains the connotation that feelings are “vulnerable” and “weak”. Instead of allowing women to express their femininity and be celebrated for it, we tell women that in order to stand a chance in a man’s world and be taken seriously they have to disavow themselves from being “emotional,” “needy,” “clingy,” or just plain too “romantic” as if those are to be avoided like the plague instead of misunderstood components of the feminine psyche. What if we saw expressing emotions and feelings as wise and empowering instead of weak? How then would our view of women and hookup culture differ? 

Moreover, if “feelings” are the enemy then we are more likely to treat others with inconsideration and a lack of compassion. Teaching ourselves that it isn’t cool to “catch feelings” promotes a dating culture that is unkind, aloof, and unsympathetic, and results in far more heartbreak. Even if it isn’t “cool” that doesn’t make feelings any less legitimate or irrelevant. 
So if men are expendable and feelings are “uncool” we are left with a cold and un-compassionate hookup scene. We are left with a dating world where men are at a huge advantage and women do not have the tools or information to properly grieve relationships no matter what they look like. Does not sound very empowering to me. 

Contrary to mainstream messaging, grief is an integral part of moving on and finding future healthy relationships. We need to be able to allow ourselves the full spectrum of human emotions in order to process and move forward. There is no benefit to bottling things up or seeking out dangerous emotional behavior in the hopes of covering up our hurt. Although the self care industry will have us believe that retail therapy and body scrubs will alleviate stress or unhappiness, the truth is that mental and emotional self care cannot be purchased. Grief is a long, arduous mental process that requires times, patience, and the support of good relationships. 

The first step in the process is recognizing the hurt and legitimizing it. No matter whether it was a fling or a hookup or a one stand stand that has now ended in less than favorable terms, that hurt matters and is legitimate. It should be handled with grace and patience.

Some of the best things you can do for the grief of a relationship is to talk to a friend, exercise, do something fun that does not have to do with partying or alcohol or mind-altering substances, and get lots of sleep. It is important to allow yourself to feel the pain and say to yourself that it is okay to be upset. It is not you who is weak for feeling this way, it is the culture and it’s mentality of “get over it” that is damaging. 

I think this highlights an important trend in our society, that we value emotional stoicism and having the appearance of “having it all together” more so than we do actually doing the work that grief requires of us to get ourselves “together.”

I want to challenge women to help one another to properly grieve relationships, and allow one another to be upset without feeling weak or inferior for doing so. True empowerment comes from supporting and encouraging one another. It is also important to note that it is okay to seek out professional help, our friends cannot always be responsible for helping bear our burdens and sometimes counseling or therapy is necessary. This does not make someone weak, it means they are wise and introspective to seek out help when they need it. 

While the current dating culture is full of misinformation and un-compassionate attitudes, we can seek out positive behavior in ourselves that prioritize growth, wisdom, introspection, forgiveness and healing. It is also imperative that we recognize negative and problematic messages in our culture and take steps to instead seek out truth. When we stop to ask ourselves why the culture might promote certain ideas and whether they are helpful to us is the first step in breaking free from negative influences and learning to be discerning consumers of information. 

Good luck,
Ellie xx

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